With the entire world watching, Simone Biles is teaching us one of the greatest lessons of all time on success versus self-care.
Dedication feels like an understatement to describe what it must take to survive the grind necessary for an American athlete to make it to the Olympics. Simone has made it look easy, shattering records to become the most decorated gymnast in the world. And let’s not forget her incredible courage to fight for survivors of the horrific abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, or that she grew up in foster care after first struggling with hunger in a home where her mother battled addiction.
Simone had hinted on Instagram about what’s been happening in her personal life, writing earlier this week, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world upon my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but sometimes it’s hard, hahaha! The Olympics is no joke.”
And at a press conference on July 27, she said, “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. We have to protect our body and our mind … It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”
“There’s more to life than just gymnastics. It’s very unfortunate that it happened at this stage, because I definitely wanted it to go a little bit better. [I will] take it one day at a time and we’re gonna see how the rest goes.”
Her courage is incredible.
So when I read one of the sensational headlines this morning about an “Olympic Breakdown”, implying that a sport was more important than the courage to step away from the spotlight of success, I knew we needed to dig into our archives for our own tribe.
Simone Biles is not alone in feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. While the weight we each feel may not be Olympics-sized, it can very much feel that way. And this idea of success versus self-care?
Success = Self-Care
Here are some words of compassion and guidance from four of our previous guests on Think Tank of Three.
On Mental Health & Personal Struggles
“I’ve noticed some people are invalidating themselves and saying things like, “My life is pretty good and why should I be feeling down? Why should I be having a hard time motivating myself? The first thing I want to say is that it’s normal, that many, many people are struggling now, not everyone, but many people. The reasons that I think that is, is that the things that are normal that help us offset having a hard day or having hard things happen in our lives have largely been taken away.”
“I think sometimes people try to combat feeling bad about themselves, the self-judgments that they have with, actually, I’m good in these other ways. This just becomes sort of this tense back and forth battle within people that, am I good or my bad? Self-compassion steps outside of this question, am I good or bad and just says I am. I am. I’m a person, and it makes sense why I’m struggling and acknowledges that the most normal thing in being human is to struggle.”
— Dr. Dorian Hunter, Think Tank of Three Episode #39 Part 1
On Joy and Happiness:
“I think the difference between joy and happiness – and it’s something I was actually just recently looking at, so it was interesting that this came up – was that happiness is external and joy is internal.
So you don’t have control over, you know, circumstances. You know, you get in a car accident or something crazy happens or what’s going on right now, right? You don’t have control over those things. And you know, if you get a car in the accident, somebody says, Hey, how’s your day going? Honestly, like not great, right? Your car just got jacked up. But joy is internal. Joy is attitude. Joy is how you choose to react to things.
And it’s fascinating to see somebody with first-world problems complaining because they’re like, Oh, they’re not carrying my variety of almond milk right now, and I don’t know how I’m going to get through my day. And then you’ll see somebody come out of, you know, somebody with cancer that just has like such a great attitude. And even though they’re struggling right now, like they’re out. Donating their time or doing whatever they can do or comforting the people that are in their lives. Or you’ll see somebody coming out of a war-torn situation or whatever, and somehow they seem to have this great attitude and it’s like, where is that coming from?
And obviously, it’s not external, but it’s something that’s inside of them and it’s how they’re choosing to deal with their current situation and how they’re choosing to look for the good, or they’re choosing to make the best of every situation. They have to find reasons to be thankful and have gratitude so they’re still able to have joy, and it doesn’t mean that they’re having the best day.
It doesn’t mean that. Everything’s okay. It just means that they’re still making a choice. So I would say also that joy is a choice. I read something that said that joy is the ability. To experience peace and contentment in spite of our circumstances. So I love that.”
— Seannon Jones, Think Tank of Three Episode #30
On Self-Care Tactics
“It’s daunting to think about things you cannot control, so don’t even allow yourself to go down that rabbit hole. It’s important to remain calm and practical. Try listening to soothing music. Watch something light and funny on TV. Take a walk. There’s no sense in focusing on your fear. Instead, use this time to focus on the positive.
In addition to those suggestions, I also recommend you try to:
- Practice gratitude. Take the time to notice all the good parts of today. I find when I do this, I instantly feel better.
- Avoid catastrophic (worst-case-scenario) thinking. Be careful not to jump to conclusions, which can lead to fearful thoughts that may trigger anxiety about events that may never happen.
- Focus on breathing and other mindfulness practices. Meditation and yoga will keep you in the here-and-now.
- Get support. Many therapists are offering video-conferencing if you don’t feel comfortable meeting face-to-face. Talk with trusted loved ones. Access spiritual support by connecting with nature or through meditation or prayer.
- Practice good self-care such as promoting sleep and proper nutrition. Moderate alcohol, caffeine, and other substance use.
And remember, “this too shall pass.”
For more information on protecting your mental health, read this helpful blog from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”
— Joyce Marter, Think Tank of Three Guest Blog: How to Practice Self-Care During a Season of Uncertainty
On Standing Up for What’s Right at Work
“You have to be the person that says, “Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t about me being emotional. This isn’t about me being a woman. This is about whatever is right or wrong or whatever the situation is.” And that’s what you stand in. I think it’s about you standing in who you are in your truth, and your worth, and what’s right. Because if something is right, it’s just right. That’s just all there is to it. And you always have that to lean on and that’s your shield. And if someone says that it isn’t right, you got to be able to prove that it is. And you also can’t be afraid to, because here’s my thing about work, it is in fact that it’s work, when I leave there, it’s there. I have a whole completely different life over here. And I also was taught to never be afraid to lose your job. So I think that that’s the other piece, is that you cannot be afraid to lose your job if you lose your job for something that’s right.”
— Dr. Terri Hackett, Think Tank of Three Episode #24